His photo appears in all the American press. A black and white image of a little black girl surrounded by white adults on a school porch. Her name is Ruby Bridges and she is a historical figure in the civil rights struggle. At 68, she leaves I am Ruby Bridgesa children’s book published by Scholastics, to tell the story of the day she became the first black student to join a school reserved for whites.
It was in November 1960, in Louisiana, in New Orleans. The end of the segregation in the schools had just been ordered and Ruby Bridges recounts it in the book with her eyes of the time: those of a 6-year-old child who did not understand everything right away.
The young girl did not understand why the police came to fetch her from her home, why they escorted her to school, why, on the way, there was this crowd screaming in her direction. She also recounts her surprise to see that her mistress was a white woman, a teacher who had her installed in a totally empty class.
What Ruby didn’t know at the time was that the white parents, refusing any interaction, broke into the school to drag their offspring out. Scene that repeated itself the next day and all the following days. For weeks, Ruby Bridges sat in an empty classroom, with Madame Henry, the only teacher agreeing to teach her, not understanding what was happening to her. And that’s also why she publishes this book for children.
I Am Ruby Bridges… https://t.co/haJY2LDgTV pic.twitter.com/qeEJolJ2Mj
— Seasons Gala (@SeasonsGala) September 7, 2022
“It’s very hard to explain racism to 6 year oldsshe said to Today. At this age, we do not understand this concept. On the other hand, we know very well what loneliness is, the fact of being alone in the yard for example, of being excluded“Ruby Bridges explains that she realized the subject was the color of her skin when at the end of the year a student told her”my mother forbids me to play with you” and called her “negress”.
The book is written for children but its message is aimed at adults, because racism is an adult problem ‘et because at 6 years old, we have no hate, we just want to make friends and play.” A simple, healthy, non-judgmental goal that Ruby Bridges calls on children to never lose sight of, and adults to find again.